Post-NBA Draft Lottery Mock Draft

I haven’t gotten a chance to REALLY break down what each top prospect can and can’t do yet so my explanations for this are going to be brief and I’m only going to focus on the Lottery Picks, which is really about as much depth as I’ve gone into on this rookie class so far. So with that intro, let’s get to the mock.

1. Phoenix Suns-DeAndre Ayton-C-Arizona

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The Suns won the NBA Draft Lottery last night in the last year where the team with the worst record in the league has the best odds (starting next year, the three worst teams will have equal odds). Devin Booker is a good scorer but he’s going to need some help out there. Enter DeAndre Ayton, who is probably the most polished player in this class. Alex Len is their only big man of note as Dragan Bender has yet to make a serious impact. Ayton reminds me of DeMarcus Cousins in that he’s a big, muscular, genetic freak who you can pretty much pencil in for 20 points 10 boards every game. He’s also a decent mid-range shooter to boot. His defense isn’t great but he’s athletic enough that he can use that to overcome some of his defensive inefficiencies.

2. Sacramento Kings-Jaren Jackson-C-Michigan State

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Jackson is 6’11 240 pounds and is more projection than finished product, but damn is his ceiling high. The Kings could really use a boost. If you only ever watched college hoops, you’d think that the Kings were the best team in the league on paper given the success their players had in college. But aside from De’Aaron Fox, who looks like a budding star, there really hasn’t been a ton of production from their recent slew of draft picks. Jackson might not be the safest pick in the world, as he’s pretty skinny for his size and struggles when engaged with physical players, but he’s an excellent shot blocker and he did shoot 39% from 3.

3. Atlanta Hawks-Luka Doncic-G-Slovenia

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Doncic is this year’s “can’t miss” foreign star, which has included guys like Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja of late (very hit or miss) and this is a guy I admittedly have not gotten to see much of. But he’s 6’8 with handles and is a matchup nightmare. He’s not super explosive but he’s an excellent distributor and is one of those guys that elevates the play of those around him. The Hawks have been rolling with Dennis Schroder as their primary ball-handler and while he doesn’t suck, per se, he is probably better suited coming off the bench. Doncic at the very least can become the team’s primary distributor.

4. Memphis Grizzlies-Marvin Bagley III-F-Duke

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Bagley was the preseason consensus number 1 player but questions arose about his jump shot and his being very lanky. I got to see him live and he very quietly had a 20-10 double-double. The Grizzlies were at their best when Zach Randolph was dominating the low post and if Bagley can put on a few pounds of muscle he can become that type of player.

5. Dallas Mavericks-Wendell Carter-C-Duke

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I was actually more impressed by Carter than I was by Bagley when Duke visited Indiana. Carter was just bullying IU defenders below the hoop and that type of physicality make him troublesome for opponents at the next level. The Mavericks have a nice point guard in Dennis Smith Jr, now they just need someone for him to pass to, especially considering Dirk Nowitzki is up there in age.

6. Orlando Magic-Mo Bamba-C-Texas

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Mo Bamba has one of the most fun names to say in all of sports and he’s a Hell of a basketball player to boot. He’s 7′ with a 7’9 wingspan and he plays with a lot of intensity. He’s still a work in progress but he could become the big man the Magic have lacked since losing Dwight Howard.

7. Chicago Bulls-Michael Porter Jr-F-Missouri

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A back injury derailed Porter’s season and potentially cost him being a top-3 pick. Nonetheless, as long as his back checks out, the Bulls will be chomping at the bit to land a talent like him. He was the #1 recruit in the nation and unfortunately for Missouri, they never really got to reap the benefits of his all-around game. The Bulls could have a potential star on their hands.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers-Mikal Bridges-F-Villanova

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This is the Nets pick the Cavaliers acquired from the Celtics in the Kyrie Irving trade. For Villanova’s championship-winning team, Jalen Brunson was the guy who got a lot of the credit (his winning Player of the Year would be a good indicator of that) but Mikal Bridges is actually the better prospect. Bridges might be the best defender in the class and is a pretty good 3-point shooter. His ceiling is limited but he’s a guy who can contribute right away and be a quality starter for years to come. The Cavaliers lack any really great defenders right now and Bridges can do that and perhaps keep Cleveland from being blown out in playoff games.

9. New York Knicks-Trae Young-G-Oklahoma

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Trae Young is perhaps the most boom-or-bust player in this class. He put up absolutely STAGGERING numbers for Oklahoma but by the end of the season he was looking so streaky that teams began to wonder if he didn’t just get hot early in the season. He’s a good shooter and a good passer but he’s not an elite athlete. However it’s a weak guard class so a guy with his upside will easily make him more enticing to teams. The Knicks have Kristaps Porzingis and if he and Young can develop good chemistry, it could become a Durant-Westbrook type relationship (until one eventually leaves the team).

10. Philadelphia 76ers-Collin Sexton-G-Alabama

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I think Collin Sexton could be a dark horse to be a really good player in this class. He reminds me a lot of the underrated Elfrid Payton (and no, it’s not JUST because of the hair). He’s a good distributor and basically carried Alabama to the Round of 32 all by himself. He’d be a luxury pick for the 76ers, who still don’t really know what they have in last year’s #1 overall pick Markelle Fultz but they can get creative with their lineups with a guy like Sexton around.

11. Charlotte Hornets-Robert Williams III-C-Texas A&M

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Full disclosure, I actually hadn’t heard of this guy prior to writing up this mock, but scouts seem to be really high on him. He’s an excellent rebounder and a very physical defender, which is something the Hornets sorely lack outside of Dwight Howard, whose effort can be inconsistent at times. His offensive game could use some work but he’ll be an enforcer under the basket.

12. Los Angeles Clippers-Miles Bridges-F-Michigan State

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Miles Bridges is pretty raw but he can take over a game if you’re not careful. He’s an exciting dunker and a pretty good defender. The problem is that his best position is probably power forward but he plays more like a shooting guard which kind of makes teams unsure of what to do with him. If put in a system like the Clippers with Doc Rivers, Bridges could find a role that best suits him.

13. Los Angeles Clippers-Kevin Knox-F-Kentucky

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Another pick for the Clippers, who sorely need more playmakers after we saw how they struggled without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Knox is really raw and he never really realized his full potential with Kentucky. However he has a good shot and he can be a real mismatch if he can continue to develop it.

14. Denver Nuggets-Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-G-Kentucky

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The Nuggets are a team that suddenly feels like they’re on the cusp, they just need to knock a couple picks out of the park. Gilgeous-Alexander is a good distributor, which is good because he’s not a great shooter. But he’s a very unselfish player whose confidence grows with every game. As long as you have a good scoring option to go along with him, Gilegeous-Alexander could be the distributor to take him to the next level.

So that’s going to do it with the Lottery Mock Draft. I’ll do another mock the day of the Draft at the end of June, I haven’t decided if I’ll do the entire first round or just stick to Lottery Picks like I did today. Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Each Team’s Biggest Draft Bust in the 21st Century

We rave about these prospects as “can’t miss” or “once in a lifetime” type players come Draft season. But every year, without fail, somebody taken in the first round fails to live up to expectations. I’m going to take a look at each team’s biggest blunder since 2000 to remind everyone to humble themselves when it comes to getting excited about your team’s first round pick. Some things to take note of when it comes to my rules for this list: First rounders only, the 2017 draft class is excluded since we really don’t know shit about them yet (Hell, Jared Goff was looking like a colossal bust after his first season. Look what happened there), and we are only considering a player’s success with the team that drafted them. So for example, Cedric Benson is a bust candidate even though he had a successful stint with the Bengals. He was drafted by the Bears, where he was awful. Draft position also matters here. The first overall pick’s bust status is going to weigh more than the 32nd overall pick’s status, even if the 32nd pick was a way worse player. I’ll also be noting some players that played the same position as the bust in question that were taken later who had much more successful careers to add salt to the wound.

Cleveland Browns-Courtney Brown-EDGE-Penn State (1st Overall in 2000)

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The first pick of the millennium, Brown was a freak of nature athlete and, to be fair to the Browns, judging by the body of work at Penn State and his physical traits, it’s really hard to blame them for taking Brown. He was basically Myles Garrett before Myles Garrett. While Garrett looks like a budding star if he can stay healthy, Brown notched just 17 sacks in his 5 years with the Browns, never eclipsing 4.5 in a season. There were definitely worse players the Browns have taken (probably the most misses in the NFL since their revival in 1999), but Brown was the only one that went first overall.

Who they could’ve had: John Abraham-South Carolina, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila-San Diego State

New York Giants-Ereck Flowers-OT-Miami (FL) (9th Overall in 2015)

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Flowers’ huge frame made him enticing to the Giants, however he’s been one of the worst tackles in the game, as he was rushed into the starting role before he was ready and it showed. Every Giants fan I know consistently calls for his head and it doesn’t help him that the Giants just signed Nate Solder to a huge contract.

Who they could’ve had: Andrus Peat-Stanford, DJ Humphries-Florida

New York Jets-Vernon Gholston-EDGE-Ohio State (6th Overall in 2008)

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Gholston was a genetic freak but that didn’t translate whatsoever to the NFL, as he recorded as many sacks as I did in the NFL: Zero (I had 2 sacks in high school but I guess that doesn’t count). Anytime I see a rookie get their first NFL sack, I think to myself “better pick than Gholston.”

Who they could’ve had: Calais Campbell-Miami (FL), William Hayes-Winston-Salem State, Erik Walden-Middle Tennessee State, Cliff Avril-Purdue

Houston Texans-Travis Johnson-DL-Florida State (16th Overall in 2005)

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A lot of people will want to say David Carr for this pick, but to be fair to the guy, he played behind what was statistically the worst offensive line of all time. Carr got sacked an NFL record 76 times as a rookie and that destroyed his confidence and he never recovered. Travis Johnson was an okay player for the Texans, but he wasn’t worth the 16th overall pick. He was out of the league by 2011. There really aren’t that many busts in the Texans’ short history (since 2002).

Who they could’ve had: Jonathan Babineaux-Iowa

Denver Broncos-Paxton Lynch-QB-Memphis (26th Overall in 2016)

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You know it’s bad when you can’t beat out the 7th rounder your team took the year before for the starting job. We knew Lynch would need time to develop, but even now that he has an opportunity, the Broncos are already looking to move on. He’s only made 4 starts in his NFL career and has thrown just 4 TD’s.

Who they could’ve had: Jacoby Brissett-North Carolina State, Dak Prescott-Mississippi State

Indianapolis Colts-Bjoern Werner-EDGE-Florida State (24th Overall in 2013)

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Werner was this big European guy that everybody was foaming at the mouth over with his potential. However he lasted just 3 NFL seasons and recorded just 6.5 sacks in only 16 starts before getting cut by the Colts. He was not picked up elsewhere.

Who they could’ve had: Alex Okafor-Texas, William Gholston-Michigan State

Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Mark Barron-S-Alabama (7th Overall in 2012)

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Barron was a nightmare in coverage with the Buccaneers and lasted just 2 and a half seasons in Tampa before being shipped to the Rams. Since joining the Rams, though, they moved him to linebacker and he has been decent in his new role. At bare minimum he starts for one of the deadliest defenses in the league.

Who they could’ve had: Harrison Smith-Notre Dame, Coty Sensabaugh-Clemson, Robert Blanton-Notre Dame, George Iloka-Boise State

Chicago Bears-Kevin White-WR-West Virginia (7th Overall in 2015)

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I hate calling guys who can’t stay healthy “busts” because it’s not always their fault, but White has played just 5 games since being the 7th overall pick in 2015. It’s just one serious injury after another with this guy. It’s hard to overlook.

Who they could’ve had: DeVante Parker-Louisville, Nelson Agholor-USC, Devin Funchess-Michigan, Tyler Lockett-Kansas State, Jamison Crowder-Duke, Stefon Diggs-Maryland

San Francisco 49ers-AJ Jenkins-WR-Illinois (30th Overall in 2012)

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I was scratching my head when the 49ers made this pick (I had Jenkins as a 4th rounder) and he did nothing to dispel my confusions. Jenkins lasted just 1 year with the 49ers before being traded to the Chiefs. He was out of the league by 2015 with just 17 catches and 223 career receiving yards to his name.

Who they could’ve had: Alshon Jeffery-South Carolina, Mohamed Sanu-Rutgers, TY Hilton-FIU, Travis Benjamin-Miami (FL), Marvin Jones-California, Rishard Matthews-Nevada

Oakland Raiders-Jamarcus Russell-QB-LSU (1st Overall in 2007)

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Russell was a can’t miss quarterback prospect. Then he held out almost his entire rookie season because he wanted a bigger contract, went 7-18 as a starter, ballooned to 300 pounds, and was out of the league by 2010. He’s considered one of the biggest draft busts of all time, certainly the biggest of this millennium.

Who they could’ve had: Drew Stanton-Michigan State, Trent Edwards-Stanford (2007 was a REALLY bad year to pick a quarterback)

Miami Dolphins-Dion Jordan-EDGE-Oregon (3rd Overall in 2013)

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Issues with drugs caused Jordan to miss two entire seasons due to suspension. He only played 2 years with the Dolphins and has 1 career start. Currently a member of the Seahawks, he registered 4 sacks in 5 games last season so perhaps he’s turning a corner. But after the Dolphins traded up 9 spots to get him, they have to be fuming with the results they got.

Who they could’ve had: Ziggy Ansah-BYU, see Bjoern Werner’s section

Buffalo Bills-Aaron Maybin-EDGE-Penn State (11th Overall in 2009)

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Maybin had 6 career sacks and they were all for the division rival Jets in 2011. Maybin lasted just 2 years in Buffalo and was out of the league by 2013.

Who they could’ve had: Brian Orakpo-Texas, Clay Matthews-USC, Connor Barwin-Cincinnati, Paul Kruger-Utah, Michael Johnson-Georgia Tech

Washington Redskins-Rod Gardner-WR-Clemson (15th Overall in 2001)

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This was almost Patrick Ramsey, but Ramsey was taken 32nd in 2002 while Gardner went 15th in 2001 so Gardner edges him out. Gardner got off to a decent start, posting a 1000 yard season his second year, but he never eclipsed 700 again and was out of the league by 2007.

Who they could’ve had: Santana Moss-Miami (FL), Reggie Wayne-Miami (FL), Chad Johnson-Oregon State, Chris Chambers-Wisconsin, Steve Smith-Utah, TJ Houshmandzadeh-Oregon State

Green Bay Packers-Jamal Reynolds-EDGE-Florida State (10th Overall in 2001)

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Reynolds played just 3 seasons and had a grand total of 3 sacks in his career. Really can’t say much about his career because there was hardly anything to speak of. Really bad look for the tenth pick in the draft.

Who they could’ve had: Kyle Vanden Bosch-Nebraska, Aaron Schobel-TCU, Derrick Burgess-Ole Miss, Reggie Hayward-Iowa State,

Arizona Cardinals-Matt Leinart-QB-USC (10th Overall in 2006)

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It was hard to choose between Leinart and Jonathan Cooper (when you miss on a guard at #7 overall, you know you messed up). But the Cardinals have been scared to take a quarterback in the first round ever since the former Heisman Trophy winner, so he’s going to get the nod.

Who they could’ve had: Jay Cutler-Vanderbilt, Kellen Clemens-Oregon, Tarvaris Jackson-Alabama State, Charlie Whitehurst-Clemson

Baltimore Ravens-Breshad Perriman-WR-Central Florida (26th Overall in 2015)

at Nissan Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Similar situation with Perriman as Kevin White with the Bears. He has a lot of talent and is very fast for his size, but health has been a major issue. Perriman’s only made 4 starts and has just 43 catches in his two years of actually playing (2016 and 2017, he missed his rookie year).

Who they could’ve had: see Kevin White

Los Angeles Chargers-Larry English-EDGE-Northern Illinois (16th Overall in 2009)

at Qualcomm Stadium on August 8, 2013 in San Diego, California.

12 career sacks in 7 NFL seasons will not get the job done. English never had more than 3 sacks in a season and never started more than 5 games.

Who they could’ve had: see Aaron Maybin

Seattle Seahawks-Aaron Curry-LB-Wake Forest (4th Overall in 2009)

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Curry was considered the safest prospect in the class, however he just couldn’t figure things out in the NFL. He has since become a college coach at Charlotte.

Who they could’ve had: Brian Cushing-USC, James Laurinaitis-Ohio State, Rey Maualuga-USC, DeAndre Levy-Wisconsin

Dallas Cowboys-Bobby Carpenter-LB-Ohio State (18th Overall in 2006)

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A solid special teamer, but you don’t take a special teamer in the first round. Carpenter never made more than 3 starts in a season.

Who they could’ve had: DeMeco Ryans-Alabama, D’Qwell Jackson-Maryland, Stephen Tulloch-North Carolina State

Detroit Lions-Charles Rogers-WR-Michigan State (2nd Overall in 2003)

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Arguably the biggest wide receiver bust of all time, Rogers lasted just 3 seasons in the NFL and had a grand total of 440 yards in 15 games played.

Who they could’ve had: Andre Johnson-Miami (FL), Anquan Boldin-Florida State, Nate Burleson-Nevada, Brandon Lloyd-Illinois

Kansas City Chiefs-Glenn Dorsey-DL-LSU (5th Overall in 2008)

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Not gonna’ lie, I liked Dorsey so much in college that I bought his Chiefs jersey before his first NFL game. But he never amounted to anything with the Chiefs. He became a pretty good nose tackle with the 49ers, though.

Who they could’ve had: Pat Sims-Auburn, Red Bryant-Texas A&M, Ahtyba Rubin-Iowa State

Cincinnati Bengals-Peter Warrick-WR-Florida State (4th Overall in 2000)

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Warrick never managed more than 819 yards in a season, which wouldn’t be awful if he weren’t the 4th overall pick. Had he been a 4th rounder, we’d be considering him a steal. However, that production just won’t cut it for the value.

Who they could’ve had: Plaxico Burress-Michigan State, Laveraneus Coles-Florida State, Darrell Jackson-Florida

Los Angeles Rams-Jason Smith-OT-Baylor (2nd Overall in 2009)

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This very easily could’ve been Greg Robinson, as the credentials (tackle that was the 2nd overall pick) are basically identical. But Smith’s going to get the nod on the basis that he got beat out by the tackle the Rams took in the second round of the same draft (Indiana’s Rodger Saffold, who is still with the team to this day as a guard).

Who they could’ve had: Andre Smith-Alabama, Eugene Monroe-Virginia, Michael Oher-Ole Miss, Sebastian Vollmer-Houston

Carolina Panthers-Jeff Otah-OT-Pittsburgh (19th Overall in 2008)

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Very few busts for the Panthers, giving Otah the nod. Otah was decent when healthy, however he played just 29 games in his 4-year career and was out of the league by 2012.

Who they could’ve had: Duane Brown-Virginia Tech, King Dunlap-Auburn, Geoff Schwartz-Oregon

Tennessee Titans-Jake Locker-QB-Washington (8th Overall in 2011)

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Locker got off to a promising start, as he was pretty good in his first game, but he never got better. It’s also worth mentioning that all 7 guys picked ahead of him made the Pro Bowl in what was an absolutely stacked 2011 class. Locker retired after 4 seasons.

Who they could’ve had: Andy Dalton-TCU, Colin Kaepernick-Nevada, Tyrod Taylor-Virginia Tech

Atlanta Falcons-Jamaal Anderson-EDGE-Arkansas (8th Overall in 2007)

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Anderson registered just 7.5 career sacks, never more than 3 in a season, and was out of the league by 2013.

Who they could’ve had: Anthony Spencer-Purdue, Lamarr Woodley-Michigan, Charles Johnson-Georgia, Brian Robison-Texas

New Orleans Saints-Johnathan Sullivan-DL-Georgia (6th Overall in 2003)

2003 New Orleans Saints Headshots

All Images Copyright Michael C. Hebert

Sullivan played just 4 years in the NFL, 3 with the Saints, started 12 games as a rookie but 4 the rest of his career. He was out of the league by 2007.

Who they could’ve had: Kevin Williams-Oklahoma State

Pittsburgh Steelers-Jarvis Jones-EDGE-Georgia (19th Overall in 2013)

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6 career sacks for a guy who at one point in the draft process was being slated as the #1 overall pick. He’s currently a member of the Arizona Cardinals but hasn’t played a snap for them.

Who they could’ve had: see Dion Jordan

Jacksonville Jaguars-Luke Joeckel-OT-Texas A&M (2nd Overall in 2013)

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There were a lot of guys that were really deserving but Joeckel is going to win out because he was taken 2nd overall. Joeckel has been a turnstyle on the offensive line and is currently a member of the Seattle Seahawks, starting 11 games at guard for arguably the NFL’s worst offensive line.

Who they could’ve had: Lane Johnson-Oklahoma, Justin Pugh-Syracuse, Terron Armstead-Arkansas-Pine Bluff, David Bakhtiari-Colorado, Ricky Wagner-Wisconsin

Minnesota Vikings-Troy Williamson-WR-South Carolina (7th Overall in 2005)

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Williamson was an absolute freak at the Combine, but those skills never translated to the NFL. He never had more than 455 yards in a season and was out of the league by 2010.

Who they could’ve had: Roddy White-UAB, Vincent Jackson-Northern Colorado

New England Patriots-Dominique Easley-DL-Florida (29th Overall in 2014)

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Easley’s tenure in New England lasted just 2 seasons before he was traded to the Rams after numerous injuries and what many considered to be a “cancerous” personality in the locker room. It didn’t help that he only started 3 games for the Patriots.

Who they could’ve had: Timmy Jernigan-Florida State, Beau Allen-Wisconsin

Philadelphia Eagles-Danny Watkins-OG-Baylor (23rd Overall in 2011)

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Watkins played just 2 seasons with the Eagles before he retired to become a firefighter. Never made a huge impact when he was on the field either.

Who they could’ve had: Clint Boling-Georgia, Daniel Kilgore-Appalachian State

There are going to be busts in every draft, however there are also steals, guys who slip through the cracks and outperform their draft slot. Tomorrow I’m going to do something similar and pick out each team’s best draft steal since 2000. Let me know what you think of these draft busts in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: St. Louis Cardinals

Tough news out of Los Angeles as Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced that stud third baseman Justin Turner broke his wrist when he was plunked by a pitch. You hate to see any injury happen, especially during Spring Training when the games don’t matter and they’re just there for you to get back into the swing of things. Here’s to hoping for a speedy recovery for Turner. On a happier note, it’s time for the latest edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the St. Louis Cardinals.

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2017 Results:

Record: 83-79, 9 games behind Chicago Cubs, 4 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: LF Marcell Ozuna, RP Bud Norris, RP Jason Motte, RP Luke Gregerson, RP Miles Mikolas

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Lance Lynn, SS Aledmys Diaz, RF Stephen Piscotty, LF Randal Grichuk, RP Seung Hwan Oh, RP Zach Duke, RP Juan Nicasio, RP Trevor Rosenthal

Best Offensive Player: LF Marcell Ozuna

Best Pitcher: Carlos Martinez

Depth Chart:

C-Yadier Molina

1B-Matt Carpenter, Jose Martinez

2B-Kolten Wong, Greg Garcia

3B-Jedd Gyorko

SS-Paul DeJong

LF-Marcell Ozuna

CF-Tommy Pham, Harrison Bader

RF-Dexter Fowler

SP-Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Luke Weaver, Alex Reyes

Bullpen-Luke Gregerson (CP?), Bud Norris (CP?), Tyler Lyons, Dominic Leone, Brett Cecil, Matt Bowman, Jason Motte

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Mike Matheny (7th season with Cardinals)

Hitting Coach-John Mabry

Pitching Coach-Mike Maddux

1st Base Coach-Oliver Marmol

3rd Base Coach-Jose Oquendo

Bench Coach-Mike Shildt

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No matter how untalented the Cardinals’ roster may seem to be, they always find a way to remain relevant. No more was that true than in 2017, where they went 83-79 despite their best offensive player being Tommy Pham, who had been their fourth outfielder for quite some time. Granted, Pham had an excellent season, but he hasn’t shown that he can keep that success up for a prolonged period of time. Here’s how the Cardinals are projected to line up in 2018.

1. Dexter Fowler-RF

2. Paul DeJong-SS

3. Tommy Pham-CF

4. Marcell Ozuna-LF

5. Matt Carpenter-1B

6. Yadier Molina-C

7. Jedd Gyorko-3B

8. Kolten Wong-2B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

The Cardinals made a big splash in the offseason when they acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins in exchange for prospects that included Magneuris Sierra. Ozuna had a Hell of a season in 2017 that got overshadowed by Giancarlo Stanton. He hit .312 with 37 home runs and 124 RBI in 159 games for a 4.8 WAR. That’s some MVP caliber hitting right there. In fact, he probably got the least press between the Marlins’ big-3 outfield that he shared with Stanton and Christian Yelich, all of whom now play elsewhere. Now that he’s the biggest star in his own lineup, perhaps Ozuna will finally get the recognition he deserves. I briefly mentioned Tommy Pham above and it’s worth talking about just how good he was in 2017. Pham hit .306 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI while stealing 25 bases and playing an excellent left field. Manager Mike Matheny is going to move him to center this season and push Dexter Fowler into right to try and put forth the best defensive lineup possible. Paul DeJong was also a breakout stud as a rookie. In 108 games, DeJong hit .285 with 25 home runs and 65 RBI. He walked very infrequently, as his 4.7% walk rate would’ve been the 11th worst in the Majors had he had enough at bats to qualify. However this performance was good enough for him to finish 2nd in NL Rookie of the Year voting behind Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers. Jedd Gyorko has been a pleasant surprise since joining the Cardinals prior to the 2016 season. He hit 30 home runs in 2016 and despite hitting 10 fewer in 2017, he was able to bring his average up from .243 to .272. Yadier Molina is the biggest name on this roster and he is quietly continuing to be amongst the game’s very best behind the dish. Last season, Molina was an NL All Star, including hitting a home run in the game, and hit .273 with 18 home runs and a team-leading 82 RBI while continuing to be an absolute stud behind the plate. He is 35, though, and being a catcher at that age isn’t exactly easy work but Yadi hasn’t shown any real signs of slowing down just yet.

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Pitching for the Cardinals is where things might get a little tricky. Carlos Martinez is an absolute stud on the mound but after him there are a lot of question marks. While Martinez carried this staff by going 12-11 with a 3.64 ERA and nearly 10 K/9, the rest of the rotation left something to be desired. Michael Wacha was inconsistent, carrying a 4.13 ERA while Adam Wainwright, their former ace, hasn’t been good since 2014. Wainwright had an ERA of 5.11, however he carried a FIP of 4.29, which isn’t great but suggests that the defense behind him wasn’t doing him any favors. This is the second year in a row that there was a pretty big discrepancy between Wainwright’s ERA and his FIP, as in 2016 his numbers were 4.62 and 3.93, respectively. Luke Weaver is a young pitcher who showed some pretty promising stuff in his first taste of big league action. In 13 appearances and 10 starts, Weaver went 7-2 with a 3.88 ERA, a 3.17 FIP, nearly 11 K/9, and a BB/9 rate of 2.54. If he takes the next step in his development, the Cardinals could have a potentially deadly 1-2 punch of him and Martinez.

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The Cardinals bullpen looks pretty rough. Luke Gregerson is listed as the closer at the moment but they do have other options, such as Bud Norris and Brett Cecil. However Gregerson never really sniffed the closer’s role in Houston, even in the postseason when guys like Ken Giles were struggling mightily, which should tell you a lot about what Astros manager AJ Hinch thought of him. Bud Norris was okay as a closer for the Angels last season, as he saved 19 games and struck out over 10 batters per 9 but also carried an ERA over 4. Brett Cecil is another guy with closer’s experience in Toronto and he made the most appearances for the Cardinals last season, appearing in 73 games and posting a 3.88 ERA. The Cardinals haven’t seemed to be able to find their closer since the days of Jason Isringhausen, though and last season was real proof of that. They thought Trevor Rosenthal was going to be that guy but aside from a high strikeout rate he could never really find his command as he often walked batters to the point of giving Cardinals fans heart attacks. Seung Hwan Oh was another guy they thought would be the closer they’ve been looking for, in fact his nickname overseas translated to “The Final Boss,” which is about as perfect a nickname for a closer as you’re going to find. However he struggled mightily as the Cardinals’ closer last season, posting an ERA of 4.10. Nobody in the St. Louis bullpen is the answer, but Matheny hopes they can at least tide things over until they do eventually find that guy.

Overall, I think the Cardinals are going to be pretty good. In my opinion, they’re the best-run organization in baseball, that hacking business aside, as the team never seems to be bad. Even when they’re not great, they still find a way to make an impact on the MLB Season. In fact, when they won the World Series in 2006, they finished with a regular season record of just 83-79, the worst record ever by a World Series champion. You may also notice that that was the record they finished with in 2017 yet it landed them in third place in their division. I expect that the Cardinals are going to be solid once again this season but I don’t think the addition of Ozuna is going to be enough to put them over the top and make them a serious threat to the Cubs in the NL Central as their pitching still needs some work.

Projected Record: 85-77, 3rd in NL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Tampa Bay Rays, who pretty much blew up the entire team in the offseason yet will still probably find some way to be pesky little shits. Let me know what you think of the Cardinals’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Minnesota Twins

The Seahawks traded stud defensive end Michael Bennett and a 7th rounder to the Eagles for a 5th rounder and wide receiver Marcus Johnson. Bennett’s 33 years old but he recorded 8.5 sacks last season which is typically around where he’s at year in and year out. The Eagles currently have an absolutely LOADED defensive front, as if they didn’t already, but that probably means somebody’s getting traded elsewhere, all signs are pointing to Vinny Curry. But I do think the Seahawks seem to have settled here. Bennett’s still a big name and I think he could’ve gotten them more than a 5th rounder and a receiver I’ve never heard of (though Adam Schefter reports that he runs a 4.3). However the Seahawks LOVE their late-round draft picks, hard to blame them since they’ve hit on them so often, but I still think they could’ve gotten as high as a third rounder for Bennett. Also, Richard Sherman is reportedly wishing teammates farewell. So are the Seahawks blowing it up?Anyways, let’s get to the Twins.

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2017 Results:

Record: 85-77, 17 games behind Cleveland Indians, won 2nd Wild Card spot, lost Wild Card game to New York Yankees

Notable Offseason Additions: 1B Logan Morrison, SS Erick Aybar, SP Anibal Sanchez, SP Jake Odorizzi, RP Addison Reed, RP Zach Duke, CP Fernando Rodney, SP Michael Pineda

Notable Offseason Subtractions: CP Glen Perkins, RP Matt Belisle, SP Bartolo Colon, RP Dillon Gee, RP Buddy Boshers, C Chris Gimenez, RP Adam Wilk,

Best Offensive Player: 2B Brian Dozier

Best Pitcher: Ervin Santana

Depth Chart:

C-Jason Castro, Mitch Garver

1B-Joe Mauer, Logan Morrison (DH), Kennys Vargas

2B-Brian Dozier

3B-Miguel Sano

SS-Jorge Polanco, Eduardo Escobar

LF-Eddie Rosario, Robbie Grossman

CF-Byron Buxton

RF-Max Kepler

SP-Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes

Bullpen-Fernando Rodney (CP), Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Ryan Pressly

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Paul Molitor (4th season with Twins, 2017 AL Manager of the Year)

Hitting Coach-James Rowson

Pitching Coach-Garvin Alston

1st Base Coach-Jeff Smith

3rd Base Coach-Gene Glynn

Bench Coach-Derek Shelton

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So I mentioned a couple of times that I wrote a paper for a column writing class where I previewed each team’s World Series chances. You may remember that as that time where I accurately predicted the Rockies would have a breakout season. Well in this paper, for the Twins, I wrote “LOL” and left it at that. I mean you can’t really blame me, they were coming off a season where they went 59-103 and they had done absolutely nothing in the offseason to make me think they wouldn’t repeat this futility. Well they made me look pretty stupid, didn’t they? The Twins went 85-77 last season and made the postseason as the second Wild Card team. It was really quite the turnaround. They had been fielding a team mainly of young upstarts and they all seemed to hit their stride at the same time in 2017. Hats off to AL Manager of the Year and MLB Hall of Famer Paul Molitor. Here’s how they’re projected to line up.

1. Byron Buxton-CF

2. Joe Mauer-1B

3. Brian Dozier-2B

4. Miguel Sano-3B

5. Eddie Rosario-LF

6. Logan Morrison-DH

7. Max Kepler-RF

8. Jason Castro-C

9. Jorge Polanco-SS

That’s a pretty talented lineup but pretty much everybody in that lineup is going to have to prove that 2017 wasn’t a fluke if they’re going to make a repeat trip to the postseason. Byron Buxton really caught on late in the season, which was huge for this Twins team. The former #1 overall prospect was dangerously close to being labeled a catastrophic bust before his bat finally started catching up to his defense and baserunning skills. Buxton hit .259 with 16 home runs, 29 stolen bases, and had a 3.5 WAR while winning a gold glove in centerfield. Miguel Sano was also a breakout star for the Twins as he was one of their most dangerous hitters, batting .264 with 28 home runs, though that number was limited due to injury. The biggest threat in this Twins lineup is Brian Dozier, though, who might be the strongest second baseman in the game even though he may not look the part at 5’11 200 pounds. He’s had 4 consecutive seasons with at least 20 home runs, 2 consecutive of at least 30, and he hit 42 in 2016. Second basemen aren’t supposed to hit 42 home runs in a season. And it’s not like he’s some Dan Uggla-type player where he’s a big brute that somehow is playing second base. He’s a decent defender at the position. Despite his recent run of success, Dozier still doesn’t get the credit he deserves all the time and that may be due to the fact that pretty much all the best second basemen are in the American League right now, including reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve, Robinson Cano, and Dustin Pedroia.

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The pitching for the Twins is the part that might have me nervous. There’s some solid names in this rotation, but they’re also guys that haven’t been great of late. Ervin Santana is their ace, but he just turned 35 years old and he’s currently on the shelf with a finger injury and likely won’t be ready for Opening Day. They did acquire Jake Odorizzi and Anibal Sanchez in the offseason, however Odorizzi battled injuries last season while Sanchez hasn’t been a quality pitcher since 2014. Jose Berrios is a guy to watch, though. He’s one of the most talented young pitchers in the game and it appears that the Twins are ready to put their trust in him to be the ace of the future for them. He finished 2017 with a 3.89 ERA but had a 2.41 ERA at home and over 5 on the road. If he can level that out a little bit, I think the Twins will have that ace that they’ve been missing since Johan Santana.

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The Twins completely overhauled their bullpen in the offseason. They signed Fernando Rodney to take over their closers role. It seems like an offseason isn’t complete unless Rodney is signing with a new team to take over their closer position for one year. He’s usually either amazing or downright awful in that role. There’s never any in-between. Rodney turns 41 next week and he’s coming off a season where he was the Diamondbacks’ closer and carried a 4.23 ERA but a 3.03 FIP and had 39 saves while striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings. He won’t ever top his dominant 2012 season with the Rays when he had an ERA of 0.60 and 48 saves, but he can clearly still sling it. If he falters, though, they have Addison Reed as an option, who does have closing experience with the White Sox and Diamondbacks, though he’s done his best work as the 8th inning guy for the Mets and briefly with the Red Sox last season. After those two guys there really isn’t a whole lot to speak of with the Twins’ bullpen.

Overall I think the Twins overachieved last season but they’re very fortunate given the situation with the AL Central right now. They get to play the Tigers, White Sox, and Royals more than any other team, which will pad their win total, but they also get the Indians, who are going to run away with the division. Realistically the Twins will have to vie for the second Wild Card spot again but I don’t think they’ll get it. The first Wild Card spot will likely go to either the Yankees or Red Sox, whomever doesn’t win the AL East, while the Angels have done a lot to improve their postseason chances in the offseason to the point where I think they’re a much more probable candidate than the Twins. I don’t think it’ll be a bad season in Minnesota, but they won’t return to the postseason.

Projected Record: 84-78, 2nd in AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the New York Mets, who look to finally stay healthy and return to the playoffs after a miserable 2017 season. Let me know what you think of the Twins’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: February 12

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-The Indianapolis Colts have hired former Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator Frank Reich to be their next head coach. Reich had been the Eagles’ OC each of the last two seasons as the team saw a significant uptick in production between year 1 and year 2. While many credit Doug Pederson for calling the “Philly Special” (despite it being an illegal formation…yes I’m still salty), Reich played a huge role in designing and developing that play. As Trey Wingo noted on Twitter, this may actually be an upgrade over the failed Josh McDaniels hire, as the Colts will now be landing the OC that won the Super Bowl, rather than the one that lost. Reich’s offensive scheme relies heavily on run-pass options, or RPO’s, and they were extremely effective in the Eagles’ wins over the Vikings and Patriots. Under his system, Carson Wentz went from an intriguing quarterback with a lot of potential to the MVP frontrunner and after his injury, Nick Foles went from a guy who hadn’t been good since 2013 into Super Bowl MVP. With so much uncertainty surrounding the Colts’ quarterback situation given Andrew Luck’s unknown health, getting a guy like Reich could become an excellent hire.

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-Paul Pierce had his number 34 retired by the Celtics and it was quite the ceremony as Celtics legends were spotted all over the place, from Bill Russell to Kevin Garnett to Rajon Rondo. It didn’t end well for the Celtics as the new-look Cavaliers smoked the boys in green 121-99, but it was a nice moment for the Celtics legend Pierce. Speaking of the Cavs, they looked really sharp as a new unit and it seems like they made all the right trades at the deadline. It’s still early, but early returns are promising.

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-People are just now freaking out over Eagles tackle Lane Johnson’s comments about the Patriots’ culture even though the interview in which that took place on Pardon My Take aired on Friday. I’m what PMT refers to as an “Award-Winning Listener” and when I heard what Johnson had to say, I didn’t really care. He said that the Patriots seem to build their culture around fear and doesn’t get the sense that Patriots players really enjoy their time in Foxboro. He also went on to state that he would rather win 1 Super Bowl and have a blast doing it than win 5 and be miserable. I don’t know why people are making such a fuss over this. One little complaint I’d have with this statement is word choice and it’s literally just one word I disagree with: fear. I don’t think the Patriots build their culture around fear, I think they build it around what’s best for business. It’s no secret that playing for the Patriots requires one to be pretty uptight and about as professional as humanly possible. But professional football is a business, it’s not about having fun at that stage. If you are having fun, great, you’re one of the luckiest people on Earth that you get to not only play football for a living, but have a blast doing it. But that business-like mentality isn’t exclusive to the Patriots. Most teams try and conduct themselves in a similar fashion, the Patriots get more publicity for it because of their run of success. You could tell that the Eagles were a much more laid back group from as early as Week 1, as their endzone celebrations were some of the best in the newly relaxed league. It worked out well for them, just like the Patriots’ business-like approach works well in Foxboro. So really, I think people need to calm down about Johnson’s comments.

-I almost got caught looking very silly during my wrestling broadcast on Sunday.

During this match, I was reading my notes and giving off information about each wrestler when I happened to glance up at the perfect possible moment when Devin Skatzka landed the pin. This would’ve gotten pretty ugly because it was a huge win for Indiana to get themselves back into the meet with Northwestern. Northwestern ended up winning reasonably handily, but this pin made things interesting. It actually happened so fast (28 seconds) that I never even got a chance to introduce the Northwestern wrestler. Had I missed the pin, it could’ve derailed the whole broadcast. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

-The NCAA released their first bracket preview where they showcased where each team stands right now in the March Madness rankings, only doing the top 4 seeds for each region. The teams are:

1 Seeds: Virginia (#1 Overall), Villanova, Xavier, Purdue

2 Seeds: Cincinnati, Duke, Auburn, Kansas

3 Seeds: Michigan State, Texas Tech, Clemson, North Carolina

4 Seeds: Tennessee, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Arizona

I haven’t been keeping up with college basketball like I wanted to but I promise I’ll at least post my bracket when the time comes. But overall I find these seedings to be very interesting, especially considering where a lot of these teams were at the start of the season. I doubt very many people would’ve guessed that traditional football schools like Auburn, Clemson, and Ohio State would rank very highly as well as Xavier and Purdue being 1 seeds along with Cincinnati and Texas Tech being amongst the 16 best teams. But I’m very excited for March Madness season because I have no effing clue who’s going to win. Usually there’s one team you can confidently point to and say “those guys are going to go far” but I could very easily see all of these teams collapsing at any given time. Is it March yet?

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-There have been reports that the Nationals are interested in signing Jake Arrieta, which should be absolutely TERRIFYING for the rest of the National League. A potential rotation of Max Scherzer, Arrieta, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark is so wildly unfair that the Nats may go weeks without letting up a run. Roark could be the number 1 pitcher on a weak staff but on this possible Nationals’ staff, he’s the fifth man. Though signing Arrieta would take the Nationals from slim chances to re-signing Bryce Harper to zero chance. We saw that Yu Darvish got a 6-year $126M deal with the Cubs on Saturday and Arrieta has a far more impressive resume so he’s certainly going to command more money. He may want to sign soon, though, because pitchers and catchers report for most teams on Valentine’s Day.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports, let me know what you think of each storyline in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

College Football Bowl Picks

Regular Season Record: 86-34       Conference Title Record: 8-0        Army-Navy: 0-1

This is going to get interesting. Bowl season is totally unpredictable but I’m going to do my damndest to try. I nailed the conference championship games but the task is a little more daunting this time around, as I’ve got about 40 games to do. For that reason, I’m going to keep this intro short. Let’s get to it.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Troy (-6) vs North Texas

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Troy is best remembered this season for beating LSU at their Homecoming but they really were a lot better than just that. These guys won the Sun Belt Conference this year and while that’s probably the least impressive conference in all of college football, it still says a lot about the success you’ve had this season. They face a tough offense in North Texas, led by quarterback Mason Fine, who could eclipse 4000 yards passing on the season in this game, which would be the first time in school history that has happened. He’s already CRUSHED the previous school record set back in 1994. I’m going with Troy in this one. They’ve shown they’re capable of winning the big game, North Texas hasn’t (their only win that can be deemed as quality is Army).

Projected Score: Troy 31 North Texas 27

Autonation Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky (-4.5) vs Georgia State

Despite losing former head coach Jeff Brohm to Purdue before the start of the season, Western Kentucky hasn’t lost much of a step in terms of the passing game. Hilltoppers quarterback Mike White should eclipse 4000 yards on the season barring an unbelievable performance from the Georgia State defense, which has been pretty inconsistent this season. They shut out Charlotte for their first win of the season but that came a week after losing to Penn State 56-0. Now yes, it’s Penn State, but that’s still not a good look to have a score like that on your resume. They also only barely beat god-awful Georgia Southern 21-17 towards the end of the season. I’ve got Western Kentucky big in this.

Projected Score: Western Kentucky 41 Georgia State 17

Las Vegas Bowl: #25 Boise State vs Oregon (-6.5)

I find the Las Vegas Bowl often has some pretty good matchups and this year is no exception. Boise State is the first ranked team to play their bowl game this year and they’re playing an Oregon team that’s just a couple years removed from appearing in the National Championship game. Now granted, a LOT has changed for the Ducks in that time, but there are still some players from that team on the current roster. However, not on the roster is head coach Willie Taggart, who was hired away by Florida State. His interim will be Mario Cristobal, who does have some head coaching experience, as he was the head man at FIU from 2007-2012. I don’t think it will help a whole lot, though, I think Boise State is going to come away with this one.

Projected Score: Boise State 28 Oregon 24

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs Colorado State (-5.5)

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If you do manage to catch this game, look out for Colorado State receiver Michael Gallup. He’s among the best there is in the country and doesn’t get a lot of exposure due to the fact he plays for Colorado State. 94 catches for 1345 yards and 7 TDs on the year for the senior from Monroe, GA. I don’t care what your level of competition was, that’s impressive. They face a Marshall team that is ice cold right now, losing 4 of their last 5 games, though 3 of those 4 games were decided by 5 or fewer points and the one that wasn’t was decided by 11. I’m giving the edge to Colorado State, I just think they have too many weapons on offense for Marshall to keep up with.

Projected Score: Colorado State 35 Marshall 28

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee State vs Arkansas State (-4)

What’s Camellia? I’ve never heard that word in my life, but my autocorrect seems to think it’s fine. Seems like an odd thing to name your bowl game, but I’m sure Middle Tennessee State and Arkansas State aren’t complaining, as MTSU had to win their final game of the season to become bowl eligible while Arkansas State had their game against Miami (FL) cancelled due to Hurricane Irma and were put at a slight disadvantage in having to reach the required 6 wins in 11 games. Well they got 7 and will try and carry that season-long success into back-to-back bowl wins. I think they’ll do it, too. They’ve had a lot of success throwing the ball this season and I think MTSU will have some problems defending the plethora of receivers they have.

Projected Score: Arkansas State 38 Middle Tennessee State 27

Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs Florida Atlantic (-18.5)

I’m not going to get too deep into this one. Akron is a team that kind of lucked into a bowl appearance while Florida Atlantic has one of the best rushing attacks in the nation. I think they’re going to stampeded the Zips. This is one of the few bowl lines that is in double digits and there’s a reason for that, Lane Kiffin’s ground attack is too dominant.

Projected Score: Florida Atlantic 45 Akron 14

DXL Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs SMU (-5.5)

Louisiana Tech is a pretty average team and that’s going to be a problem when you face an offense as potent as SMU’s. Not only can quarterback Ben Hicks sling it, but he’s got two of the best receivers in the nation in Trey Quinn and potential first round draft pick Courtland Sutton. The Mustangs are going to score a ton of points as they also have an effective ground game, as Xavier Jones is over 1000 yards rushing on the season. I’ve actually got SMU in a blowout.

Projected Score: SMU 52 Louisiana Tech 24

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Temple (-7) vs Florida International

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. What a name for a bowl game. I’d argue it’s an even better name than the now-defunct Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. This game will also be played at my least favorite baseball stadium in Tropicana Field, so that’s about as perfect a combination of complete crap as you could ask for. Classic random-ass bowl games. Oh and there’s a football game that’s going to be played between Temple and Florida International. Temple has very little going for them offensively and defensively they’re not much better. Looking at their overall stats, I’m amazed they made it to 6-6. I think Florida International is going to come away with this one relatively handily.

Projected Score: Florida International 34 Temple 21

Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs Ohio (-8)

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What a journey it’s been for UAB. A few years back they got their football program cut despite going 6-6, which resulted in an exodus from many top players, including Jordan Howard to my Indiana Hoosiers, who as you may know is currently tearing it up in the NFL with the Chicago Bears. There was enough backlash from the UAB faithful that the school brought the program back. Now, in their first year back after a 2-year hiatus, the Blazers are bowl eligible for only the second time in school history. This is probably going to wind up being my favorite storyline of the college football season when the Blazers lift that Bahamas Bowl trophy in their victory over Ohio. Also UAB’s logo is a fire-breathing dragon and that’s awesome. Can’t not subconsciously root for them.

Projected Score: UAB 27 Ohio 21

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan vs Wyoming (pick ’em)

This is going to be a battle between two talented quarterbacks. Central Michigan quarterback Shane Morris showed all the talent in the world at Michigan but just couldn’t put it together before transferring to the Chippewas while Wyoming features potential top-10 draft pick Josh Allen. Despite being as talented as he is, Allen didn’t really have that great of a season. That can be due in part to a lack of real talent around him and in part due to the fact that Wyoming didn’t throw it a whole lot. But it is also most likely due to the fact that Allen has been playing on a bum shoulder for much of the season, which of course is a pretty big deal for a quarterback. I’m still looking for that one big performance that tells me that Allen is going to be a successful NFL QB but I just don’t know if that’s going to be in the cards. That shoulder injury is going to hurt Wyoming’s chances.

Projected Score: Central Michigan 31 Wyoming 24

Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs South Florida (-2)

This could be the highest-scoring game of the bowl season. We all know how much Texas Tech likes to throw the ball, it’s been pretty well-documented, but USF’s Quinten Flowers is one of the most dynamic players in the country and has the ability to score on anybody at any time. Add in the fact that the Red Raiders can’t defend for shit and you’ve got the makings of a 5-hour game that ends with both teams over 50 points. I think that’s what we’re going to get and I’ve got South Florida taking home the trophy.

Projected Score: South Florida 55 Texas Tech 52

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs Army (no line)

If Army’s going to have any shot at this game, they need to keep Rashaad Penny off the field. Penny is a monster with the ball in his hands and Army will need to dominate the time of possession if they’re going to stop him. If any team can do it, though, it’s the men at West Point. Their offense is built around the ground game and controlling the tempo. I think they’ll have some success early, but I think they will struggle to contain Penny and the Aztecs will pull away late.

Projected Score: San Diego State 31 Army 20

Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs Toledo (-8)

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Toledo is among the best mid-major teams in all of college football. Quarterback Logan Woodside is one of the more underrated passers in the game today and while the Appalachian State Mountaineers have a pretty good defense, they’re going to struggle to contain all of Toledo’s weapons. Appalachian State won a share of the Sun Belt title with Troy and it was on the strength of an effective ground game. They’re going to struggle to keep up with Toledo, though.

Projected Score: Toledo 35 Appalachian State 30

Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs Houston (-2)

I don’t know why this game is a Christmas Eve tradition, but it is. Usually it’s kind of a shitty matchup but this year it pits two of the best mid-major teams in the country. Fresno State nearly won the Mountain West a year after going 1-11 and Houston has continued to play well despite losing Tom Herman to (arguably) greener pastures in Texas. It’s going to be a defensive battle as Fresno State has one of the toughest defenses in the nation while Houston features perhaps the nation’s best overall defensive player in defensive tackle Ed Oliver. I’m going to give the edge to Houston in this one, as it’s more of a gut feeling than anything at this point.

Projected Score: Houston 17 Fresno State 10

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah (-5) vs West Virginia

Utah started out the season so nicely but then face-planted so hard. They started the year 4-0 but finished the season losing 6 of their last 8 and had to win the season finale over Colorado in order to even be bowl eligible. Normally, I would say they’re screwed for their game, but West Virginia isn’t sure if they will have quarterback Will Grier, who is nursing a broken finger on his throwing hand. Had it been his left hand, you could probably wrap it up with another finger and have him go out there, but not when it’s on your right hand where it will directly affect how you throw. But to be honest, his replacement, Chris Chugunov (what a name) didn’t play that badly against Oklahoma in his start. Was he particularly good? No, but he kept West Virginia reasonably in the game. They still ended up losing by 28, but that’s because Oklahoma scored 59 points. Leading your team to 31 points against the second best team in the country isn’t half bad. That’s why I’m going with the Mountaineers in this game, with or without Grier.

Projected Score: West Virginia 38 Utah 24

Quick Lane Bowl: Duke (-3.5) vs Northern Illinois

Duke’s offensive line is going to have their hands full with Northern Illinois. The Huskies have arguably the best pass rusher in the nation in Sutton Smith, who led all of college football with 14 sacks to go along with 28 tackles for loss. Duke started the year 4-0 before losing 6 straight and had to win their last two in order to become bowl eligible, but they were able to pull it off, beating two pretty good teams in Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. But I think Duke is going to struggle to protect quarterback Daniel Jones in this one. They were 80th in the nation in sacks allowed and they go up against the team that led the nation in sacks. I’ve got Northern Illinois taking this one.

Projected Score: Northern Illinois 20 Duke 17

Cactus Bowl: Kansas State (-3) vs UCLA

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Kansas State is going to struggle to throw the football in this one. They used three different quarterbacks this year and none of them were particularly successful. Despite this, they have one of the better defenses in the Big 12, which is saying nothing.  This team is going to get eaten alive by Josh Rosen, though. They simply can’t keep up with him on offense and I think this is going to be the game that solidifies him as the number 1 pick in the Draft.

Projected Score: UCLA 42 Kansas State 24

Walk On’s Independence Bowl: Southern Miss vs Florida State (-15)

Normally, I would wonder how in the Hell this matchup is even legal. But losing Deondre Francois in Week 1 derailed Florida State’s season so hard, Jimbo Fisher skipped town for Texas A&M. They’ve still managed to become bowl eligible, though and will look to try and pick up the win against Southern Miss. Southern Miss has one of the best rushing attacks in the country, led by Ito Smith and his 1300 yards on the ground. The defense has also been solid this year, as they’ve pitched two shutouts. But I’m going with Florida State here, but I don’t think it will be nearly as big a blowout as the line might suggest.

Projected Score: Florida State 27 Southern Miss 24

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa (-3) vs Boston College

This is the one bowl I’ve ever attended, when Indiana played Duke and Indiana lost in OT after a Griffin Oakes field goal was incorrectly called no good. It traditionally has some pretty good games in their Big Ten-ACC matchup. Iowa has perhaps one of the most damaging victories all season in that their 31-point win over Ohio State most certainly knocked the Big Ten out of the playoff picture. Boston College, meanwhile, has been one of the more up-and-down teams I’ve seen in a while. One week they’ll absolutely DESTROY Florida State and then the next they’ll lose to NC State (not a knock against the Wolfpack, but BC’s offense in particular can’t seem to find a consistent rhythm). I’m going with Boston College for this one, as aside from that one performance against the Buckeyes, Iowa hasn’t been that impressive this year.

Projected Score: Boston College 24 Iowa 20

Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona (-3.5) vs Purdue

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So as you may have read, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is my favorite to win the Heisman next season because of the dominant stretches he displayed. However he does need to improve as a passer if he’s going to reach those heights. Purdue is a pretty solid run defense, especially with Ja’Whaun Bentley at linebacker. Tate might need to whip out that passing ability if Arizona is going to keep pace, but I think they will. Tate is such a talented runner that I think overall he’s going to overpower Purdue and Arizona will get the win.

Projected Score: Arizona 28 Purdue 21

Academy Sports+Outdoors Texas Bowl: Texas vs Missouri (-1)

Both teams were quietly pretty solid this season mainly because it was below their traditional standards, but definitely better than the last couple years. Texas showed some promise under Tom Herman but it may be a couple of years before they return to the Longhorns of old. Missouri’s Drew Lock had a fantastic season throwing the football, as he led the nation in passing touchdowns this season. I’m going to give the edge to Texas in this one. It’s a toss up but the game is being played in Houston, where the Longhorns will essentially have a home field advantage, which is big in college sports.

Projected Score: Texas 30 Missouri 27

Military Bowl: Virginia vs Navy (no line)

Virginia actually had a pretty good season this year. After going 2-10 in Bronco Mendenhall’s first season at the helm, the Cavaliers turned it around nicely and find themselves in a bowl game. Also, quarterback Kurt Benkert is getting some looks from the NFL as a result of his successful season. They face a Navy team that lost a heart breaker to Army in the snow and I just don’t know if they have what it takes to take down this surprisingly talented Virginia squad. I’ve got the other Cavs in this one.

Projected Score: Virginia 24 Navy 14

Camping World Bowl: #22 Virginia Tech vs #19 Oklahoma State (-6.5)

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This is too good a matchup to be relegated to the likes of the Camping World Bowl, but at least in most cases by the time the game actually kicks off, you kind of forget which bowl you’re playing in. The number 3 scoring offense in Oklahoma State vs the number 5 scoring defense in Virginia Tech. Something’s gotta give. I think I’m going to give the edge to Oklahoma State here. Yes, I know, a matchup of this type usually ends up favoring the defense, but the Cowboys have far too many weapons that the Hokies have to compete with.

Projected Score: Oklahoma State 35 Virginia Tech 30

Valero Alamo Bowl: #13 Stanford vs #15 TCU (-2.5)

This is going to be a really close game as both teams have the ability to be really explosive on offense while also featuring some of the best defenses in their respective conferences. Heisman runner-up Bryce Love leads the Cardinal to face TCU and their duo of talented defensive ends in Ben Banogu and Mat Boesen. While I do think Love is going to have a big game for the Cardinal, I don’t think it will be enough to compete with the TCU offense. Kenny Hill’s been having a tremendous season for the Horned Frogs and I think he leads them to an Alamo Bowl victory over Stanford.

Projected Score: TCU 28 Stanford 23

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: #18 Washington State (-2.5) vs #16 Michigan State

Like the Oklahoma State-Virginia Tech matchup, this game features one of the top offenses in the country in Washington State vs one of the top defenses in Michigan State. The Cougars are the second best passing offense in the nation, trailing only the aforementioned Oklahoma State while the Spartans allowed under 200 passing yards per game this season. It’s going to be a tough matchup but I think Washington State is going to come out on top. Michigan State has been too careless with the football offensively, as they’ve fumbled it more than any team in the country that doesn’t run a run-only offense, which I think the Cougars will find ways to capitalize on.

Projected Score: Washington State 31 Michigan State 24

Belk Bowl: Wake Forest (-3) vs Texas A&M

Wake Forest was quietly a pretty good team this season, as they went 7-5 this season, including wins over a Lamar Jackson-led Louisville team and a late-season win over then-#19 NC State. They take on a Texas A&M team that is getting a major face lift, as they fired Kevin Sumlin only to turn around and hire Jimbo Fisher away from the Florida State Seminoles. Fisher, however, will not be leading the Aggies in this game, as that task will fall on Jeff Banks. I’m actually going to go with the Demon Deacons in this game. There’s too much turmoil going on with the Aggies in this game and I think it could become a distraction, which is the last thing you want when you face a pesky team like this.

Projected Score: Wake Forest 24 Texas A&M 21

Hyundai Sun Bowl: #24 NC State (-6.5) vs Arizona State

Like Texas A&M, Arizona State also hired a new head coach in Herm Edwards, who has previously coached in the NFL with the Jets and Chiefs. It’s an odd situation because despite firing the incumbent Todd Graham, Graham will still be coaching this game for the Sun Devils. This could go one of two ways: Graham could be salty and sabotage this game for his former employer, or he could try and go out with a bang and give his best performance. I don’t think it’ll matter a whole lot what he ends up doing because I think NC State’s Bradley Chubb is going to give a similar performance to what we saw Solomon Thomas give for Stanford in their bowl game last year: a performance that will solidify him in the Top-5 pick discussion. I’ve got the Wolfpack in this game.

Projected Score: NC State 27 Arizona State 20

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs #21 Northwestern (-8.5)

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Kentucky is quietly a pretty good team this year as they went 7-5, including wins over South Carolina, Missouri, and Tennessee. Mark Stoops has done a Hell of a job with his team this year, but I think they’re going to run into some problems against Northwestern. The Wildcats had one of the best seasons in school history, as they went 9-3, including winning each of their last 7 games, including an OT win over Michigan State. Northwestern plays some really sound and fundamental football and I think they’re going to frustrate this Kentucky offense that is predicated on being able to run the football. I’ve got Northwestern in this game.

Projected Score: Northwestern 23 Kentucky 13

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State vs Utah State (-3)

The battle of the Aggies, this game might slip under the radar a bit because it’s not a matchup of household names. Which is a shame, because when they’re on, they can be two of the most exciting offenses in college football. New Mexico State’s Tyler Rogers ranked among the best passers in the game with his 3825 passing yards this season while Utah State preferred a more balanced attack that spreads the ball around to various different options. I’m going to go with New Mexico State for this game. Utah State’s defense has had its struggles this season and I think Rogers is going to have a field day.

Projected Score: New Mexico State 38 Utah State 27

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: #8 USC vs #5 Ohio State (-7)

So in an 8-team playoff format, this would be the 4 vs 5 matchup and dammit if I’m not pumped for it. Getting a chance to watch Ohio State live twice this season, I was able to see firsthand just how much better this team got over the course of the season. Their defense, which struggled to contain Indiana’s Richard Lagow and Simmie Cobbs, were lights out in the Big Ten championship, absolutely shutting down Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor. Their defense will put potential top pick Sam Darnold to the test, as this will be by far the toughest defense he faces all year. How he performs in this game will go a long way in determining whether he really is the top quarterback everybody projected him to be. I think he will have his struggles, though I don’t think it will necessarily be because of him. I think USC’s offensive line will struggle to protect him against the monster of a front that Ohio State has and they will wreak havoc on the Trojans.

Projected Score: Ohio State 30 USC 20

TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville (-6) vs #23 Mississippi State

Lamar Jackson may have finished third in the Heisman voting this year, but I would argue that he actually played better in 2017 than he did in his banner 2016 season. Louisville wasn’t quite as good as they were last year and that’s really what hurt Jackson’s Heisman chances. They face a Mississippi State team that can be very dangerous, as they came the closest to beating Alabama before Auburn was able to pull it off in the Iron Bowl. But I think they will struggle to contain Lamar Jackson. Limiting Jalen Hurts is one thing, but Jackson is so much better a passer that it’s going to be too much for the Bulldogs to keep track of.

Projected Score: Louisville 38 Mississippi State 30

Autozona Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs #20 Memphis (-3)

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Memphis’ Riley Ferguson can sling it with the best of them, as he showed in Memphis’ early-season win over Josh Rosen’s UCLA Bruins, where Ferguson was able to outduel the potential top draft pick. He’s also got a lot of weapons on offense that will cause Iowa State a lot of problems, however if anybody is up to the task, it’s the Cyclones. Iowa State is the only team to beat Oklahoma this season and they also were able to hand TCU their first loss of the season. Both teams ended up playing in the Big 12 title game, so Iowa State does a great job of playing up to their competition. However I think the combination of Ferguson and receiver Anthony Miller is going to be too much for Iowa State to handle and I think Memphis will come away with this one.

Projected Score: Memphis 42 Iowa State 38

Playstation Fiesta Bowl: #11 Washington vs #9 Penn State (-3)

This is a matchup made in heaven. Two teams that boast not only talented offenses, but talented defenses as well. They each had a couple of rough goes, Penn State likely would have played for the Big Ten Title game had JT Barrett not pulled off a miraculous comeback to knock off the then-second-ranked Nittany Lions. Then they lost to Michigan State after a 3-and-a-half-hour storm delay midway through the contest that likely threw off their groove. Washington also had a couple of ugly defeats, as they were upset by Arizona State midway through the season, then a loss to Stanford that effectively eliminated them from Pac 12 title contention. Both teams will be looking for a bit of redemption for their once promising seasons and I think this will go down to the wire. I’m going to go with Penn State to get the win, though. I think their offense is too explosive for Washington to keep up with for four quarters.

Projected Score: Penn State 31 Washington 28

Capital One Orange Bowl: #6 Wisconsin (-6.5) vs #10 Miami (FL)

The Turnover Chain is dead. Clemson buried it.

The Hurricanes are suddenly ice cold as they’ve delivered back-to-back duds to close out their schedule. They lost in embarrassing fashion to Pittsburgh, then got obliterated by Clemson in the ACC Championship game with a playoff berth on the line. Then Dabo Swinney’s bunch destroyed what had been the emblem of the Hurricanes’ season in the Turnover Chain and Miami fans can’t be feeling much lower right now. They take on a Wisconsin team that may have been exposed a little bit in their loss to Ohio State. While the Badgers did manage to keep the game close, it was mainly because Ohio State shot themselves in the foot on multiple occasions. That being said, I think this defense is going to cause a lot of problems for Malik Rosier and company and Wisconsin will come away with the victory.

Projected Score: Wisconsin 24 Miami (FL) 10

Outback Bowl: Michigan (-8.5) vs South Carolina

These two teams have met in the Outback Bowl before.

However South Carolina doesn’t have anybody who evenly remotely resembles JaDeveon Clowney this year. Michigan has had their struggles at the quarterback position this year but if they can get the ground game working, then I think they will be okay. Defensively they’re so good they can practically take over games. I’ve got the Wolverines winning this one.

Projected Score: Michigan 21 South Carolina 17

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: #12 UCF vs #7 Auburn (-10)

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Why Auburn is ranked 7th despite being a 3-loss team is beyond me, but it doesn’t really matter anymore as long as they aren’t in the playoff. They looked good to start the SEC Championship game, marching down the field and scoring a touchdown on their first possession. Then Georgia unraveled them and scored 28 unanswered. They face the lone unbeaten team in college football in UCF. Despite being hired by Nebraska, UCF head coach Scott Frost will coach the Knights in this game to close out the season, which I wish more coaches would do. It is for that reason that I think UCF will compete with Auburn, even give them a scare for most of the game, but I think the Tigers will outlast them. Eventually, talent often wins out, though if any team were to be on upset alert for this bowl season, I’d say it’s Auburn.

Projected Score: Auburn 20 UCF 17

Citrus Bowl presented by Overton’s: #14 Notre Dame vs #17 LSU (-2.5)

These are two teams that like to run the ball and play physical defense and on paper are pretty evenly matched. LSU has recovered really well after their homecoming debacle against Troy, as they’ve won 6 of 7 games since that loss, their one defeat being Alabama. The Fighting Irish, on the other hand, ended the season rather meekly, losing 2 of their last 3 after having been in the playoff hunt for much of the season. Granted, those two losses were Miami and Stanford, but both teams ended up getting beaten in their conference title games, Miami pretty soundly while Stanford kept it close. Notre Dame is capable of beating up on good teams, though, and I think the difference is going to be quarterback play. I trust Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush more than I do LSU’s Danny Etling and for that reason, I’m picking the Irish.

Projected Score: Notre Dame 31 LSU 27

Rose Bowl: #3 Georgia vs #2 Oklahoma (-1)

The first of the two playoff games, this will be Baker Mayfield’s first game after winning the Heisman Trophy. It will also be an opportunity for him to increase his draft stock even further, as he goes up against a really tough Georgia defense. If he can have a big game, then I think NFL teams will be far more intrigued by the possibility of drafting him high. As for Georgia, they look to break the 3-seed curse, as the team in that slot has yet to win a playoff game (Florida State, Michigan State, and Ohio State have all failed to get the job done). It’s going to be an uphill battle for them, as they will have to ask Jake Fromm to outduel the Heisman-winning Mayfield. It won’t be impossible, as Oklahoma will likely be without stud runningback Rodney Anderson as he faces domestic assault charges, but I don’t see that happening, and I’m picking the Sooners reaching the National Championship for the first time since the 2008 season, when Sam Bradford was outplayed by Tim Tebow.

Projected Score: Oklahoma 31 Georgia 26

All State Sugar Bowl: #4 Alabama (-2) vs #1 Clemson

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Part 3 of this CFP rivalry, though it’s the first matchup in this series that won’t be taking place with the National Championship on the line. Alabama will be very thankful it’s not Deshaun Watson under center for Clemson, as he absolutely lit them up in each of the previous matchups. Kelly Bryant will be tasked with taking on the Crimson Tide defense. He’s not Watson, but he has proven capable of winning big games, as he led Clemson to wins over the likes of Auburn, Virginia Tech, and a blowout of Miami for the ACC title. Offensively, Alabama will have to compete with the most efficient defense in the country in Clemson, as their defensive front that includes the likes of Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, and Clellin Ferrell will make it tough to move the ball. Having seen eachother each of the last few years, I think both Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney will have made the adjustments they will need to come away with the victory. In the end, I think Clemson will come away as the winner of this best-of-3 series and will take on Oklahoma for the National Championship.

Projected Score: Clemson 34 Alabama 31

*Exhales.* Finally, I’ve made all the picks and it only took me 5530 words, more than doubling my previous high word count (which I think was an NFL picks segment). I’m going to wait to do the National Championship game until the night before, as I don’t want to predict a matchup that hasn’t been set up yet. But based on what I’ve predicted, I think that Clemson will beat Oklahoma to win back-to-back championships. I just think they’re more well-rounded than Oklahoma is and I think the Sooners’ deficiencies on defense will come back to haunt them in this one. Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Preview

College basketball is always one of the tougher sports to predict typically because it is ALWAYS experiencing turnover, with all the one-and-dones that enter and leave the league before we really get a chance to see what they can do. It’s hard to blame them, with how messy the NCAA can get it’s no wonder these players jump to the NBA first chance they get. So that being said, I’m anticipating a fun year of college basketball. In this preview, I will try and project who will win each of the Power 5 conferences as well as putting in my own Top 25 and my preseason All Americans. I will not be predicting who I think will be the champs, as March Madness is so insane every year that I feel like trying to predict how it’s going to go in November doesn’t give the tournament its full due. I will, however, give who I think will be the number 1 overall seed, if that helps. Let’s get to the conference champs.

ACC: Duke Blue Devils

Duke Countdown To Craziness

photo credit: Sports Illustrated

The ACC is probably the best conference in college hoops right now. You’ve got the blue bloods such as Duke and reigning champs North Carolina, but the second tier of this conference is typically super competitive as well, such as Notre Dame, Miami (FL), and Louisville (though with the whole Rick Pitino situation, Louisville may be removing themselves from this discussion). I’m going with Duke to win the ACC this year for two main reasons: Coach K and the recruiting class. Mike Krzyzewski is arguably the best college basketball coach on the planet right now and he always turns out a plethora of NBA talent, whether that be from one-and-dones or guys who stay all four years. This year he has a particularly talented group to go with Grayson Allen. Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter, Trevon Duval, and Gary Trent Jr are all in the TOP EIGHT of ESPN’s Top 100 Recruits for the class of 2021 (whether these guys are here that long is another story). Bagley is the highlight here as he is a big time recruit who was able to reclassify in order to be a part of this Duke roster. He’s 6’11 with all the tools you can look for in a player: athleticism, shooting, and post moves being major positives with this kid. The one thing that may hold this team back is Grayson Allen. Yes he is a supremely talented point guard, but his emotional outbursts are more renowned than his game is and that can become a distraction. He’s got to be the leader of this young team, being a senior this year, and if he’s having hissy fits on the bench then it could do a lot of damage to this team.

SEC: Kentucky Wildcats

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photo credit: A Sea of Blue

Was there really any other choice here? While the SEC may be a dominant conference in football, they are essentially a one-man race in basketball, with Kentucky having won the conference each of the last 3 years (feels like it should be more than that). John Calipari rivals Coach K as the best coach in the game but the main challenge Kentucky deals with every year is the one-and-done. Kentucky goes through these types of players more often than seemingly any team in the country, but Cal also encourages it. He feels that his guys should take the opportunity to go to the NBA as soon as they feel they’re ready, but has all his guys declare for the NBA Draft anyway so they can all get a sense of their draft stock before deciding whether they want to go forward or return to school. And with his coaching prowess and skills as a recruiter, he has no problem finding replacements for the guys he lost the year prior. This season, Kentucky’s top players are Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Nick Richardson, Hamidou Diallo, and Jarred Vanderbilt, joining a roster that returns very little from last year’s SEC champs. Kentucky’s only real competition this season will likely come from Florida, Texas A&M, or Alabama, but I think the gap between these schools are big enough that everyone else is playing for second place in the SEC.

Big Ten: Michigan State Spartans

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

Tom Izzo’s Spartan squad has never been one that typically deals with the one-and-dones, as Deyonta Davis is the only player in recent memory to leave for the NBA after one season in East Lansing. That bodes well for Michigan State because they’ve got a lot of good returning talent, particularly Miles Bridges (who may be my favorite player in all of college basketball) and Lourawls “Tumtum” Nairn. Michigan State also landed Jaren Jackson, ESPN’s #9 recruit, who looks to be a major contributor for this season. In the Big Ten, Michigan State’s main competition will likely come from Wisconsin, Purdue or even  quietly good Minnesota and Northwestern teams. Indiana’s potentially a wild card because it’ll be interesting to see how Archie Miller transitions to major college basketball after great success at the University of Dayton. But Michigan State is so loaded and have a Hall of Fame head coach, making it awfully difficult to pick against them.

Big 12: Kansas Jayhawks

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photo credit: KUSports.com

Do I really even need to do this one? The Big 12 has been OWNED by Kansas of late, as the Jayhawks have won the Big 12 every year since 2005. That’s THIRTEEN STRAIGHT CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS! Despite this, Kansas only has one national championship victory to show for it (2008) but they will be looking for another run this year. They lose Player of the Year Frank Mason to the NBA, but they do have Devonte Graham returning, which was huge for Bill Self’s squad, as Kansas’ recruiting class was a little light this season. Billy Preston was their only recruit in ESPN’s Top 50. But having another season of Devonte Graham will likely be good enough for the Jayhawks to hold off such competition as West Virginia, Baylor, and possibly Iowa State for a fourteenth straight conference title.

PAC-12: Arizona Wildcats

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photo credit: Arizona Daily Star

Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins are back for Arizona and they’ll be running this offense with one new toy to play with: DeAndre Ayton, the 7-foot 250-pounder out of Phoenix. Ayton is the #3 overall recruit according to ESPN, trailing only Bagley and Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr (both guys are in the discussion for number 1 pick in the NBA Draft). Ayton is arguably as good as either of these guys and will be key to replacing Lauri Markkanen. Head Coach Sean Miller (older brother of Indiana coach Archie Miller) has had Arizona playing some really good basketball these last few years and it wouldn’t shock me to see these guys unseat UCLA as best in a weak conference, as only the Bruins and USC are expected to be competitive in this conference.

Preseason Top 25:

1.Duke Blue Devils

2.Michigan State Spartans

3.Kentucky Wildcats

4.Kansas Jayhawks

5.Arizona Wildcats

6.Villanova Wildcats

7.North Carolina Tar Heels

8.Florida Gators

9.Wichita State Shockers

10.West Virginia Mountaineers

11.Miami (FL) Hurricanes

12.USC Trojans

13.Notre Dame Fighting Irish

14.Cincinnati Bearcats

15.Minnesota Golden Gophers

16.Louisville Cardinals

17.Purdue Boilermakers

18.Gonzaga Bulldogs

19.Xavier Musketeers

20.Wisconsin Badgers

21.Northwestern Wildcats

22.UCLA Bruins

23.Baylor Bears

24.St. Mary’s Gaels

25.Seton Hall Pirates

Preseason All Americans

First Team:

G-Collin Sexton-Alabama

G-Devonte Graham-Kansas

F-Miles Bridges-Michigan State

F-Marvin Bagley-Duke

C-DeAndre Ayton-Arizona

Second Team:

G-Joel Berry-North Carolina

G-Trevon Bluiett-Xavier

F-Michael Porter Jr-Missouri

F-Johnathan Williams-Gonzaga

C-Mohamed Bamba-Texas

Projected Player of the Year: Miles Bridges-F-Michigan State

Mississippi Valley State v Michigan State

photo credit: CBS Detroit

Bridges is one of the most exciting players in the game and as a freshman last year, he scored 16.9 points per game with 8.3 rebounds while shooting almost 50% from the field and 39% from 3. He’s got another year under his belt and I think given his abilities, we are in for a tremendous season from the sophomore forward from Flint, Michigan.

Projected #1 Seed: Duke Blue Devils

Duke is just too stacked on paper for it to be anyone else at this point in the year. As I mentioned, in a sport typically dominated by freshman, Duke has 4 of the 8 best, including the number 1 overall player as well as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. However, we often see these super teams fall apart under the weight of media expectations, as teams with this much hype rarely ever live up to it, so while I am super high on Duke, it also wouldn’t shock me to see them underwhelm.

Those are my predictions for this college basketball season. Probably going to look WAY different when I do the postseason edition. Do you agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.